Friday, 22 October 2010


MAN & EVE GALLERY   2.10.10
Dig Down in Time
This picture is here under false pretences. It’s a postcard I’ve had for years and as I couldn’t take a photo in Man&Eve Gallery it’s standing in for Susan Hiller’s work, Dedicated to the Unknown Artists; Flying Spray, Feathery Foam.

Man&Eve  is an independent gallery which moved from a Grade II listed town house in Kennington to the former Lambeth Sea Cadets Drill Hall, an early 20C building in a quiet street not far from the Oval. Hiller's works are  in the Drill Hall itself, as well as on a very rickety stairwell (only for the stout-hearted), and in the yard outside.

Dedicated to the Unknown Artists... (seen here at Tate Britain) has been described as ‘an excavation of the overlooked, ignored, or rejected aspects of our shared cultural production’.  The display consists of framed anonymous postcards of views of rough weather on the English coast, the work of uncredited artists. In the centre is a typed chart in which she records and classifies visual differences between them - photo or painting, colour or mono, the frame margin, sea with shore, sea with bridge, with ship, coast, pier and prom... Together they challenge us to take a radical look at how we decide what is or is not worth preserving. After seeing the work I went home and classified the 100 or so postcards sent to my god mother over seven decades, which she had chosen to stick on her lounge wall with Blu Tac. Not a stormy sea among them as it happens – but then she did live in Lowestoft, the most easterly point of England, and she had probably seen enough of them.

I first saw Hiller’s work in 2000 at the Tate Britain's Intelligence exhibition. She’d collected from all over the world accounts of sightings or meetings with UFOs and aliens. Hundreds of tiny speakers suspended from the ceiling murmured in their original language and you could choose to move around, isolating one voice, or listen to the cacophony. A lone hushed voice in a crowded room felt a privilege, as someone narrated an event of great importance to them: listening to the voices together made it sound like an intergalactic convention. Trained as an anthropologist, she looks at ‘mass culture’: the romantic, the sublime, the comic, the saucy, the marginal and the irrational, How do cultures construct 'reality'. She talks of ‘investigations into the 'unconscious' of our culture’.

Her High Seas pc collections led to her being called ‘wild’ because  she brought Pop Art into Conceptualism.This is how Hiller herself puts it:

I’m interested in things that are outside or beyond recognition, whether that means cultural invisibility or has to do with the notion of what a person is. I see this as an archaeological investigation, uncovering something to make a different sense of it.

Man&Eve gallery? Since 2014, founding director Lucy Newman Cleeve has continued her curatorial practice as Man&Eve Projects, working with an evolving group of artists in a range of public and commercial settings

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